Things We Need is a section devoted to pointing out areas within Los Angeles that have not become a “thing” yet, obvious gaps in culture, food, drink, or any other area. They are things we need to make Los Angeles better, from the simplest little details to the large, gaping holes in our city no one seems to be talking about.
As you can tell, we don’t travel very often. We’re very much Los Angeles homebodies. When we do travel, we are always sure to check out how the gay bars are and see how they stack up in relationship to Los Angeles. Inevitably, every city we visit has better gay bars than us. Sure, gay bars are for a very specific audience and, sure, we do have a lot of gay bars–but they are boring and lack character. Something Los Angeles needs: better gay bars!!
Let’s break things down: there are two types of gay destinations in Los Angeles. The first type is the West Hollywood type. If you look at this in straight terms, the bars in West Hollywood are essentially homosexualized versions of the bars and clubs in Hollywood and Highland–would you want to go there? Not really. It’s full of bridge and tunnelers, tourists, people who look OK, and it’s nearly unbearable on the weekends. Fiesta Cantina can be silly fun, the drag show at Rage is great, Mother Lode is good, Popstarz is the silliest of fun, and places like Marix, Hamburger Mary’s, and The Abbey are stops you can only hit once a quarter or you will probably die.
The second type of gay destination we have is Akbar. As easy as that: Akbar. It is the only good alternative gay bar–and everyone goes there. Roosterfish is great but too damn far if you aren’t local, MJs and Faultline are silly and trying too hard, Fubar is OK, and The Eagle is often tooooo ridiculous to frequent. Akbar is the only alternative.
Yes, this does sound like a lot of places. But what are all of them missing? An edge. Some character. Some diversity. Something different. All of them are either mainstream or intentionally alternative. In the past five years, I’ve been to tons of gay bars and there are a few that we blatantly do not have in Los Angeles. The first type: a nice gay bar. The Abbey is by no stretch “nice.” It’s not well designed, it’s a scene, and you often have your drink spilled by some bachelorette and her party. Therapy in New York is a good example of something we need: it’s a nice experience as a customer and they put on fantastic programming. I’ve been there a few times and it is always good.
We also don’t have any really fucked up gay bars either. I don’t mean fucked up like The Eagle or where people are doing drugs–I mean fucked up as in it is just a shitty, divey, dumpy place and it works because of that. It’s just too cool for words. Akbar isn’t too cool. Akbar is where everyone goes because there is nothing better. There can be better though! PONY in Seattle, The Cock in NYC, The Cinch in San Francisco, and Mary’s in Atlanta have this cool, rough, kitschy feel to them that are inviting. You feel like you could get robbed or like you could have a good time. There’s an element of excitement that they have that we do not have.
Lastly, something else we don’t have: legitimate lesbian bars. Look at this list on Yelp: most of these are not even gay bars. The Palms is the only one that comes to mind and Here does some great lesbian programming. Girl Bar and Booby Trap are good lesbian events/nights but don’t happen every night. When we stumbled into Cubbyhole in New York, it was the first time I had been in a full on lesbian bar, where it was all ladies all the time. It was great and I am sure lesbians in Los Angeles would love another spot to hang out at.
Perhaps Los Angeles’ gay scene is just too different. Maybe our version of these edgy gay bars are the parties like A Club Called Rhonda or Mustache Mondays or BFD at Fubar or Bobby Trap, an edgy night instead of an edgy venue. Maybe all of these desires are answered somewhere in the Southland or in the Valley. Maybe we are the only ones who want more from our gay bars. We don’t know. What we do know is that our options are limited and, as a large city, we deserve better. How are we going to celebrate LGBT Pride Month if all the venues in town suck?